Brexit: Labour conference vote wording agreed

Anti-Brexit campaigners march in Liverpool Image copyright EPA

Labour members are to vote on keeping “all options on the table” on Brexit, including possibly campaigning for a new referendum, the BBC understands.

A source said the party’s ruling body had agreed on the conference motion on what the party should do about Brexit if it cannot get a general election.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn had previously said he would prefer the issue to be resolved by a general election.

But he has accepted he would be “bound” by the outcome of a conference vote.

‘Consensus in room’

The party’s National Executive Committee discussed the text of the motion during a meeting which lasted several hours on Sunday evening.

And a source told the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg: “There was consensus in the room opposing the Tories’ chaotic approach to the Brexit negotiations… and that a general election should be called as soon as any deal is voted down by parliament.

“It was then agreed that if we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

She said that the phrase “on the terms of Brexit” had been removed from an earlier draft of the motion, meaning that the option to campaign for an in/out referendum remained open.

The Labour Party has never formally rejected the option of a further vote, but both Mr Corbyn and his deputy, Tom Watson, have indicated they would prefer it to be resolved by a general election.

Image copyright EPA

Pressed on the issue on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Corbyn, who has said he is not calling for another referendum, said “our preference” is for a general election that would then allow a Labour government to negotiate the UK’s future relationship with Europe.

He said: “Let’s see what comes out of conference. Obviously I’m bound by the democracy of our party.”

Snap election?

Mr Corbyn also told the programme the UK “could be” close to a general election. Amid speculation that Labour could force a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May if Parliament rejects any Brexit deal, he said: “We will be putting our case to Parliament and we will see what happens after that. We are absolutely ready for it.”

He said Labour would be prepared to vote down any deal Mrs May came back with, if it did not meet a series of tests Labour has set out.

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Media captionDavid Lammy: ‘Can you hear us Jeremy Corbyn?”

However, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has ruled out a snap election this autumn, saying the idea was “for the birds”.

The UK is due to leave in March 2019 and Theresa May has been negotiating with other EU leaders on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc.

Talks hit a stumbling block at a summit in Salzburg on Thursday when EU leaders rejected Mrs May’s plan for Brexit – known as the Chequers agreement, and she warned them she was ready to walk away rather than accept a “bad deal”.

Worker representation

In a statement on Sunday, the prime minister said “many in Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP are trying to thwart Brexit at every step and seeking to exploit this moment for political gain” by calling for another referendum and extending Article 50 to delay Brexit.

Labour’s conference in Liverpool began on Sunday with policy announcements on plans for worker representation on company boards and to make employers provide up to 10 days’ paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

Announcements on Monday will include:

Brexit is among eight issues to have been chosen for debate at the conference in Liverpool after a ballot by Labour members and trade unions.

The others are Palestine, the economy, housing, schools, government contracts, in-work poverty and justice for the Windrush generation.


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